Red Dead Redemption 2: everything we know so far

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Red Dead Redemption 2’s third trailer landed on Wednesday, and gameplay-based previews from Europe were published the next day. Anticipation is cresting once more for Rockstar Games’ open-world Wild West adventure as we approach its October release, scheduled for eight and a half years after its predecessor.

Despite that span and two delays, Rockstar Games has kept tight-lipped about the game, only confirming its existence in 2016, and then the fact it was a prequel a year later in 2017. Very few rumors have slipped out, even.

So this is all we know, for know.


Red Dead Redemption 2 - two men on horseback in a forest

Rockstar Studios/Rockstar Games

What is Red Dead Redemption 2?

This is a follow-up to 2010’s Red Dead Redemption for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, which was widely acclaimed and the choice of many for game of the year. In the first game, protagonist John Marston was forced by federal authorities to capture or kill members of his old crew, Dutch’s Gang. Its story began in 1911; Red Dead Redemption 2 is set beginning in 1899, making this a prequel.

When’s the release date?

Red Dead Redemption 2 is scheduled to launch Oct. 26, 2018, on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. It was originally due to launch in the fall of 2017, then that was delayed to the spring of this year, and then to October with an announcement back in February.

Back in October 2016, Sony announced it had secured a special deal for timed exclusive access to online content, but didn’t specify what that was.

Update, June 3: On June 2, Microsoft apparently jumped the gun with a listing on its online store divulging the pre-order incentives for Red Dead Redemption 2. They include a “War Horse” skin, a package of digital content called “The Outlaw Survival Kit,” some cash to start the game’s single-player campaign, and $500,000 in money for Grand Theft Auto Online. Preorders by July 31 will get an exclusive treasure map for single-player too.

The details are rather standard come-ons for a pre-order, but they do suggest that Red Dead Redemption 2’s online multiplayer world will trail the main game’s launch by a few weeks, somewhat like Grand Theft Auto Online did for Grand Theft Auto 5 back in 2013.

At any rate, we will likely learn more — including the PlayStation’s exclusive content — at E3 2018.

Update, June 7: Rockstar announced two special editions for Red Dead Redemption 2 packed with online goodies. The Special Edition, for $79.99, and an Ultimate Edition for $99.99. The “Special Edition” includes a mission for the game’s story mode, a new horse, outfit, weapons and other gameplay bonuses. Both are available through digital marketplaces. The Ultimate Edition delivers all of that plus more costumes, weapons and a progression bonus. More details are here.

What’s the story?

Red Dead Redemption 2’s official synopsis from Rockstar Games, as of May 2018, is:

America, 1899.

The end of the wild west era has begun as lawmen hunt down the last remaining outlaw gangs. Those who will not surrender or succumb are killed.

After a robbery goes badly wrong in the western town of Blackwater, Arthur Morgan and the Van der Linde gang are forced to flee. With federal agents and the best bounty hunters in the nation massing on their heels, the gang must rob, steal and fight their way across the rugged heartland of America in order to survive. As deepening internal divisions threaten to tear the gang apart, Arthur must make a choice between his own ideals and loyalty to the gang who raised him.

We will evidently see the events that led to Marston’s capture — a bloody gunfight at Blackwater (a location appearing in both games) where dialogue from the first game suggested 37 people were killed, 15 of them lawmen.


Red Dead Redemption 2 - Arthur Morgan hanging ducks on a fence

Rockstar Studios/Rockstar Games

Anything more on the story?

No, other than what’s been shown in the trailers so far. This analysis breaks down the latest one and offers a lot of context for what is shown in its action-packed two minutes. Here’s a look back at the second trailer, which came out last fall.

Who do you play as?

Arthur Morgan is the primary playable protagonist. He is a member of Dutch van der Linde’s first gang. Morgan is neither seen nor referenced in the first Redemption, so he’s an all-new character. Marston is also expected to feature prominently in the story as a major character and has been seen in promotional trailers.

Who are the other characters in it?

Other than the aforesaid Morgan, van der Linde and Marston, other names include:

  • Bill Williamson and Javier Escuella (gang members from the first Redemption) and Uncle
  • Sadie Adler (the woman who featured prominently in the gang in Wednesday’s trailer)
  • Newly introduced gang members Lenny, Karen, Micah Bell, Sean McGuire and Pearson, who have been named in previews

Red Dead Redemption 2 - John Marston pistol-whipping a guy

Rockstar Studios/Rockstar Games

What kind of game can we expect?

Broadly speaking, based on recent gameplay previews, it seems a lot like Red Dead Redemption, but a lot larger. Red Dead Redemption 2 will have a sprawling open-world territory with random missions, side quests and diversions surfacing throughout it, though previewers say they’re offered more organically. There’s the same large population to intimidate and rob, or run from if they fight back. Sustaining the gang as it’s hidden out in the wilderness sounds like an ongoing concern.

There’s an honor system similar to its predecessor, in which acts both good and bad will have an effect on the player’s reputation, triggering a law enforcement pursuit, affecting the size of a bounty (or whether one is placed on him) for crimes committed, and how NPCs react and interact when Morgan appears in town.

Update, Aug. 9: A six-minute gameplay trailer today gave greater context to Arthur Morgan’s story. Like most Wild West gangs, Morgan’s buynch has to settle and regroup after their raids, moving their encampments as necessary. The player will be tasked with supplying the group as part of a non-mission or interstitial activity. Arthur Morgan’s open-world encounters with NPC characters will be up to the user: They will be able to escalate or de-escalate any situation (before any shooting begins anyway) through dialogue choices. Though Morgan is, narratively, an outlaw, there is a means for him to peacefully resolve conflict. This will be reflected in the player’s reputation and in the reactions NPCs have to it down the line.

What about multiplayer?

Rockstar Games has said we’ll be hearing more about that later, but one can expect there will be some kind of Red Dead Redemption Online suite as robust as Grand Theft Auto Online. The first Redemption premiered three years before Grand Theft Auto 5 and its groundbreaking, MMO-like multiplayer mode, rightly an ever-changing game unto itself. “Recurrent consumer spending” in GTA Online and NBA 2K’s MyCareer have also contributed tremendously to Take-Two Interactive’s growing revenue stream, making it a certainty that something as desired as Red Dead Redemption 2 will be used for the same purposes.

How big is the map?

We don’t know yet, but not for a lack of trying. The synopsis Rockstar Games gave for the trailer on Wednesday referred to Blackwater — which was at the eastern end of the original game’s map — as a “western town.” This area is in the southwest corner of a leaked map that purportedly showed Red Dead Redemption 2’s world. So that suggests this prequel is going to push into the northeast away from the previous game’s setting. The terrain will still be as varied, with mountains, prairies and now a bayou setting.


Red Dead Redemption 2 - Arthur Morgan riding through a graveyard

Rockstar Studios/Rockstar Games

When will we find out more?

Likely around E3 2018 in June, though perhaps not at E3 itself. Maybe Rockstar goes on stage with Sony, but a booth at E3 has never been Rockstar’s style. The studio still has a lot more to share about the online portion of the game; that may be the next round of preview coverage, with future trailers dripping out more details and context about the story and characters.

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